Susannah Self is one of 6 composers selected to write a new work for the Lockdown Diaries project organised by Skipton Camerata.
The commission is for a new and original work of approximately 6 minutes in length for actor/narrator and 7 players (vln, cb, cl, bsn, tpt, trb, perc) with scripts provided by actor and writer, Kamal Kaan. A performance of the work by members of Skipton Camerata under the direction of artistic director Ben Crick will be recorded and the resulting short film made available online in November.
Susannah Self talks about this exciting project:
‘I am not normally one to go in for composition competitions but this one caught my eye for two reasons: because of its orchestration and because of the intriguing scripts created by actor and writer, Kamal Kaan as a response to Lockdown.
I will be creating The Frontline Worker which is a combination of stand-up comedy interfaced with the tragedy of a nurse faced with the lack of PPE and ventilators in the NHS during Lockdown. She becomes broken by watching patients die, subsequently leaving her job.
There is a Kafkaesque quality to this scenario so I am glad the words will be spoken rather than sung, because the humanistic message is too important to be possibly lost on a vocal line. The orchestration is of course identical to Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale but I am aiming for a more naturalistic expression.
A trap in composing for narrator and ensemble is that the music can become too descriptive of the text and the piece ends up becoming parody of itself. Although I admit I have plans to use a whip, whistle, car horn and lions roar! But parallel to the anarchic hilarity I want to convey the extremely pitiful situation that frontline workers have been forced into during the Covid crisis. Therefore I will be composing momentous tragic music in juxtaposition to the comedy. My opera The Butt, based on the novel by Will Self which performed at Musictheatertage Festival in Vienna in 2016, demonstrates my interest in these contrasts.
At six minutes so there is a lot to pack in! But I am used to that – my 2017 Birmingham Opera Company commission Freedom Bridge was a five minute opera for soprano, violin and cello). Subsequently this scena found its way into my opera Quilt Song. Perhaps The Frontline Worker in a similar way will lead to a longer work’.
We at Composers Edition look forward to watching The Frontline Worker in November and publishing the score in due course.
Meanwhile, do enjoy Susannah Self’s new works just made available in our catalogue this month: Eight Arias for Soprano and Piano and Two Sacred Duets for soprano and alto and keyboard, both works from the opera Artemisia.